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Is Prescott Right? Welfare State Policies and the Incentives to Work, Learn and Retire

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  • Bas Jacobs

Abstract

This paper bolsters Prescott’s (2004) claim that high taxes are responsible for lacklustre labor market performance in continental European countries. We develop a lifecycle model with endogenous skill formation, endogenous labor supply, and endogenous retirement. Labor taxation distorts not only labor supply, but also education and retirement decisions. Actuarially unfair pensions further exacerbate labor tax distortions on retirement. Education subsidies can nevertheless cushion the adverse impact of taxation on skill formation. Feedbacks between education, labor supply, and retirement are important. The model is simulated with realistic behavioral elasticities that are consistent with microeconometric evidence. If, besides labor supply, also learning and retirement are endogenous, the uncompensated (compensated) elasticity of the tax base equals 0.46 (0.85), which is more than twice as large as the standard uncompensated (compensated) labor supply elasticity of 0.18 (0.40). Furthermore, life-cycle interactions between education, working and retirement are quantitatively important and the interactions raise all behavioral elasticities substantially. For example, the uncompensated labor supply elasticity increases with one-half due to life-cycle interactions (to 0.26). We demonstrate that low European labor supply can be fully explained by taxation without relying on unrealistically high labor supply elasticities. Reducing labor market distortions, cutting benefit levels, lowering tax rates, and making (early) retirement actuarially fairer, therefore boosts labor supply, delays retirement, and stimulates skill formation. In addition, high education subsidies are needed in large welfare states to off-set explicit and implicit tax burdens on human capital investment.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2008/wp-cesifo-2008-04/cesifo1_wp2277.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2277.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2277

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Keywords: skill formation; human capital; labor supply; retirement; tax policy; benefit systems; pension policy; welfare state;

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References

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  1. ?gel de la Fuente & Rafael Dom?ech, . "Human Capital In Growth Regressions: How Much Difference Does Data Quality Make?," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 446.00, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  2. A. Lans Bovenberg & Bas Jacobs, 2005. "Redistribution and Education Subsidies are Siamese Twins," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 05-036/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  3. Edward C. Prescott, 2003. "Why do Americans work so much more than Europeans?," Staff Report 321, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
  5. Hartog,Joop & Maassen van den Brink,Henriëtte (ed.), 2007. "Human Capital," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521873161, October.
  6. Gruber, Jon & Saez, Emmanuel, 2002. "The elasticity of taxable income: evidence and implications," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 1-32, April.
  7. Lalive, R. & Ours, J.C. van & Zweimüller, J., 2004. "How Changes in Financial Incentives Affect the Duration of Unemployment," Discussion Paper 2004-86, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  8. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2002. "The Social Security Early Entitlement Age in a Structural Model of Retirement and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 9183, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Christopher A. Pissarides, 1997. "The Impact of Employment Tax Cuts on Unemployment and Wages: The Role of Unemployment Benefits and Tax Structure," CEP Discussion Papers dp0361, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  10. Bas Jacobs, 2002. "Optimal Income Taxation with Endogenous Human Capital," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 02-045/2, Tinbergen Institute.
  11. Emmanuel Saez, 2002. "Optimal Income Transfer Programs: Intensive Versus Extensive Labor Supply Responses," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 1039-1073, August.
  12. Blau, David M., 2007. "Retirement and Consumption in a Life Cycle Model," IZA Discussion Papers 2986, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Eric French, 2004. "The Effects of Health, Wealth and Wages on Labor Supply and Retirement Behavior," 2004 Meeting Papers 96, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  14. Sorensen, Peter Birch, 1999. "Optimal tax progressivity in imperfect labour markets," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 435-452, September.
  15. Charlot, Olivier & Decreuse, Bruno, 2010. "Over-education for the rich, under-education for the poor: A search-theoretic microfoundation," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 886-896, December.
  16. John P. Rust, 1989. "A Dynamic Programming Model of Retirement Behavior," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Aging, pages 359-404 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Trostel, Philip A, 1993. "The Effect of Taxation on Human Capital," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 327-50, April.
  18. Stephen Nickell, 1997. "Unemployment and Labor Market Rigidities: Europe versus North America," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 55-74, Summer.
  19. repec:dgr:uvatin:2005036 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Frederick VAN DER PLOEG, 2004. "DO SOCIAL POLICIES HARM EMPLOYMENT? Second-best effects of taxes and benefits on labor markets," Economics Working Papers ECO2004/11, European University Institute.
  21. Bas Jacobs, 2007. "Real Options and Human Capital Investment," CESifo Working Paper Series 1982, CESifo Group Munich.
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Cited by:
  1. Bargain, Olivier & Orsini, Kristian & Peichl, Andreas, 2011. "Labor Supply Elasticities in Europe and the US," EUROMOD Working Papers EM1/11, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  2. Rodríguez-Pose, Andrés & Tselios, Vassilis, 2011. "Welfare regimes and the incentives to work and get educated," CEPR Discussion Papers 8187, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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